DES MOINES, IOWA - The Iowa Cubs are putting together big innings - and it's hurting the Tacoma Rainiers.
For the second consecutive game, Iowa had one massive inning to open up a close game.
In the series opener Wednesday, Iowa scored six runs in the fourth inning.
On Thursday, it was a five-run bottom of the seventh that led the Cubs to an 8-3 win.
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The loss was Tacoma’s seventh in its past nine games. The Rainiers maintain a 3½ game lead over second-place Salt Lake, which lost to Oklahoma City on Thursday.
“Iowa has a pretty good lineup, and we’re just going to have to do a better job of shutting down innings,” Rainiers manager Daren Brown said.
Tacoma (61-51) struggled against Iowa starter Jeff Samardzija. The former Notre Dame wide receiver did not allow a hit until Greg Halman singled with two outs in the fifth inning. All told, Samardzija allowed one run in six innings while improving his record to 9-1.
“He’s got a good sinking fastball, and we didn’t do much against him,” Brown said.
Meanwhile, Iowa jumped out to an early 3-1 lead against Tacoma starter Ryan Feierabend. Micah Hoffpauir doubled in a run in the first, and Marquez Smith lined a two-run homer to left in the second inning.
But Feierabend and reliever Yusmeiro Petit prevented Iowa from scoring again until the seventh.
Petit issued two walks with one out, and then Hoffpauir ripped a first-pitch, three-run homer to right field, giving Iowa a 6-1 lead.
Bobby Scales followed with a single, and then former Rainiers star Bryan LaHair greeted reliever Scott Patterson with a two-run homer to right field.
It was LaHair’s 18th home run of the season, and his first against Tacoma – a team he hit 60 home runs for over a four-year span.
“I’ve seen that before, but not from the other side,” Brown said. “He’s having a good year, and I’d like for him to have a good year, but I want him to cool off for two more days until we get out of here.”
Tacoma made the final score a little more equitable when Halman lifted a two-run homer to center field in the top of the ninth inning.
It was Halman’s 25th homer of the year; he’s tied for second in the Pacific Coast League behind Las Vegas catcher J.P. Arencibia’s 31.
Prior to the game, the Rainiers placed pitcher Ian Snell on the disabled list with soreness in his right elbow. Snell started Tuesday and was knocked out in the fourth inning, allowing seven runs. Brown was non-committal when asked if Snell would return this season. … Ryan Rowland-Smith will make a rehabilitation start for Tacoma on Saturday, pushing Michael Pineda’s next start to Sunday in Omaha.
The third game of the series is today at 5:05 (PDT). Tacoma will start Andy Baldwin (7-5, 5.22 ERA) against Iowa’s Jay Jackson (8-6, 4.19). The game will be broadcast live on 850 AM, and stream via www.tacomarainiers .com.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers